Saturday, July 5, 2014

Different types of art

This has nothing to do with riding, but my friend sent me the link this morning and I had to watch it a few times just to try and see how he did it.  An old friend of mine is a glass blower in Maui with a shop called Hot Island Glass so the first thing I did was email it to him and say, "Can you explain how he did this?"  It looks on the surface like it's easy - just turn the rod with the hot glass on it and poke a few things, pull a few things here and there and boom! Cool looking glass horse!  But I guarantee if I tried to do that it would look nothing like a rearing horse!  I feel secure in saying that because my dad is an amazing wood carver and especially likes to make birds and fish and you can find them throughout the greater Seattle area on his friend's mantels and on their desks at their offices.  But when he sat me down with all the fancy tools and showed me how to do it, my little bear figurine looked nothing like his life-like realistic fish and birds.  I guess it's a "feel" that you get from years and years of practice.  Which is actually a lot like riding, come to think of it.  Buck Brannaman talks about a "feel" a lot in his clinics and it's true, you do get to the point where your timing is no longer a conscious decision but based on the sensory feedback you're getting from your experience with the horse.  So, enough rambling, here's the video I was talking about (well, I can't seem to share the original one sent to me but here is another one)

And speaking of the art that goes into riding, I have made it through the initial application process to take an instructor course with a woman I admire quite bit named Peggy Cummings.  She studied with another amazing woman in the horse world named Sally Swift and is focused on what has been a very big thing for me in the process of learning, which is balance and harmony in communication with the horse.  She calls it "connection" with the horse and refers to it both on the ground and under saddle.  I still need to send a video snippet of my riding and teaching before I am officially accepted as a student but I am very hopeful and excited.

I've been thinking as I've been learning about equine massage that it would benefit my practice to either be a veterinarian or a really well educated riding instructor.  The former is just not in the cards for me at this time because of cost and time commitment (my most important commitment right now still is being a mom).  But the riding instructor part is accessible.

One of the things I have already seen in my beginner students is if they have ridden before (ie: they're not getting on a horse for the very first time with me so I can catch them before they develop a negative habit) is that often they "pose" and get rigid.  Very few of my beginner students relax when they sit on a horse.  They brace their back, they force their heels down and they lock their arms.  And then they forget to breathe.  I can completely understand that because like them, that is how I would get on a horse in the beginning as an adult after several years of not riding.  I may have done that when I was a child and riding hunter/jumper too but I don't remember.  One of the things my first instructor as an adult, Sheryl, used to make me do was sing while I was riding and it turned out to be a really great tool because not only does it force you to breathe, but you just can't stay tense when you're up on a horse singing "row row row your boat".  In fact, I tried that with one student during a Leader Ride that I happened to be watching my friend, Terhi teach (that's when the volunteers have their lesson together) and one of the students was feeling very afraid because she was on a new horse to her and he was a little more high strung that the last horse she road.  She was very shy though and when I tried to get her to sing she wouldn't do it with all the other teens around, so I jogged beside her and sang and occasionally said, "I look pretty silly here singing and jogging next to you - will you please sing with me?" and she started to laugh and another great thing - you have to breathe when you're laughing.  So singing is also beneficial even if it's the instructor making herself look silly in front of all the other kids.

You know, though, we as humans tend to do that in our daily life too.  Someone says "sit up straight" or "stand up straight" and often people will pull their shoulders back hard and hold them there, which often causes their back to sway, and then they will forget to breathe, or breathe up high into their chest because they're holding so much tension up in their shoulders, then everything will start to hurt from the pressure of forcing your body in that position, and they'll finally take a deep breath and slump over and think "Ok, this feels better!" and stay that way.  It wasn't until I started taking pilates with a woman named Shelly Gossard in Seattle that I began to really learn what it's like to truly "stand up straight" in a way that supports your body.   She was great pilates instructor but then we moved to the Eastside and it wasn't convenient to go to her anymore.  So, I started taking classes with Beth Glosten and continued my education on what is really means to "stand up straight" and also to "sit up straight" when riding.  And how it does not involve bracing your body or holding anything together in your body.  It's more like stacking things up on your body in the correct way so that everything is supported evenly.  Which if you have been holding yourself in a slumped position (like me for most of my life) you can't do until you strengthen a different set of muscles that can naturally hold your body in that position.  Very similar to how we are training my daughter's horse, Geir.  In fact, I often tell him that I can completely relate to what he's going through learning to use his body correctly because I'm going through the same thing.

This little snippet of Peggy Cummings talking about riding instructor really sums up my own personal goals as an instructor perfectly:

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